Dolls that tell the stories of American History:
Founded in 1986, Pleasant Company released a line of American dolls, all the dolls are represented as eight to eleven year old girls of difference races. The goal of the American Girl doll team is to promote creativity, confidence, self-esteem, and to celebrate achievements of girls in history. The company produced the American Girl doll magazine in 1992 with the purpose for girls to achieve their dreams; it’s one of the top 10 children’s magazines and sells over 350,000 copies. American Girl dolls cover various topics such as animal abuse, war, poverty, slavery, racism, child abuse, and child labor. American Girl companies goal is to create dolls that girls can seem as themselves, or to give young girls a chance to learn about a new culture. American Girl dolls have a variety of differences including, face molds,eye colors, hair styles, textures, and skin tones of light, medium, and dark. In the 1900s black dolls were available for purchase but it wasn’t till the 60s when they accurately displayed black girls psychical features.The following companies were the first companies to mass produce ethnically correct black dolls in the 1960s, Keisa Dolls Inc, Whitney Doll Inc, Shindana Toys, Golden Ribbon Inc., and Olmec Inc. American Girl’s new doll is Melody Ellison her story is the following; she is black girl in living in Detroit, and involved in the civil rights movement. A researcher from American Girl company sought out Dr. de Schweinitz to help advise Melody’s story, her clothing, and details of her life. Melody Ellison is only the third African-American doll in the collection. Next to Civil War-set Addy, and Cecile New Orleans in 1850s, Melody brings a new part of history alive. Melody is the very first black doll to be set in the 20th century. In de Schweinitz’s book, If we could Change The World: Young People and American’s Long Struggle for Racial equality, she addresses how young people had a huge impact on the civil rights movement. Melody’s story is to represent brave young boys, and girls who fought for equal rights in the 60s. For society to have a black doll to encourage girls to make a difference in the world, reflects how previous stereotypes of black people are slowly, being destroyed. “To ensure historical accuracy, American Girl employed an advisory board of five experts. Horace Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP Board of Directors; Juanita Moore, President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit; Rebecca de Schweinitz, a history professor at Brigham Young University; Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North; and JoAnn Watson, former executive director of the Detroit NAACP. The board worked with the author of the Melody books, Denise Lewis Patrick, to create a true-to-history world for Melody – and one that tackles the events of the era.” Diana Pearl. American Girl has taken a part of history, and turned it into a positive way for young people to go out and seek their dreams, make a change, and stand up for what they believe in. Just as The Cosby Show represented how African American families could be more then maids, they could be doctors, and lawyers, Melody is representing how young black people in the 60s made a impact in America. Dr. de Schweinitz discussed in a interview how Melody opens up a way for kids to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. Amanda Chase recently interviewed de Schweinitz, and asked her, why the story of Melody is important today? De Schweinitz responded with the following, ” American Girl has been wanting to do a civil rights character for a long time. It’s something that American Girl fans have asked for. They took their time developing her because they wanted to do it right, and they knew that this was really important history to incorporate and to tackle. This new character happens to emerge at a moment in which we have considerable racial tensions in American society, and so I think that makes her even more valuable for opening up discussions and opening up new perspectives and points of understanding. We see Melody and her family struggling with some of the less visible points of discrimination and racism — that are still around today. We see differential treatment by business owners to her and her family, differential treatment from the police, racial discrimination in housing and employment — some of the more subtle, kind of harder-to-tackle issues of racism that makes Melody’s story really timely.” Melody serves as a reminder of how black women changed history, and how they fought, sacrificed, and believed in these changes. Melody represents what any young girl with a dream can do, and is a great reminder to the nation to reflect on the past and learn from it. Melody silences previous ideas of beauty, reassuring that every kind of skin color is beautiful. Melody stands along with Helen Williams, Tiana, Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Phylicia Rashad, regarding strong black women who fought for a purpose, and fought to be heard.
“Kids have always felt their own determination to fight for racial equality. This was their movement, too.”
“Everyday people, including children and youth, changed the course of history.”
“I hope that young people will be inspired by Melody and look for ways to make a difference and change in whatever issue or area of life they feel passionate about. I hope they recognize, like Melody and her family, that there are all sorts of ways to make change and that different talents can be brought together to make a difference.”
Dr. de Schweinitz
Melody Ellison: “Today, I will lift my voice and sing out. Fairness and equality for all people sound like music to my ears. More than ever, I need to lend my support at home, at church, and around my neighborhood. It’ll take courage, but adding my voice to others can really make a difference.”